With retailers increasingly offering it and consumers using it, multi-channel is the latest retail revolution that is driving growth within the sector.

With retailers increasingly offering it and consumers using it, multi-channel is the latest retail revolution that is driving growth within the sector. However, this approach demands an effective delivery infrastructure to protect brand value, strengthen customer loyalty and provide the necessary flexibility and convenience to enhance the retail experience.

The apparent blurring of boundaries between different channels is making it essential for retailers to provide a consistent customer experience and high levels of service across all aspects of the retail operation. With the consumer no longer differentiating between a store, online or mobile retail, failure to do so potentially damages the reputation of the business and the strength of relationship with the customer.

Consumers are taking the multi-channel approach because of the choice and convenience it provides, so any delivery solution needs to mirror this and operate seamlessly across the business. Our industry research last year found that there is considerable interest amongst consumers in services that make home deliveries simpler and more effective, especially for those not at home during the day.

For example, 85 per cent of respondents thought evening deliveries were appealing, increasing to 93 per cent for those in full-time employment, whilst 75 per cent were in favour of going online to organise a collection from home or a safe place in order to return unwanted purchases. Meanwhile, in urban areas there is also appeal for parcel shops that are open from early morning to late evening that could handle deliveries (66 per cent) and returns (75 per cent).

With this in mind, Hermes recently launched 500 myHermes ParcelShops across the UK at local convenience stores with extended opening hours, with plans to extend the network to more than 1,000 locations by the end of the year. Retailers will initially be able to offer the service as a cost-effective means of returning unwanted online purchases, with plans to extend the service to allow consumers to specify their nearest location as an alternative to home delivery.

This latest development forms part of the company’s multi-channel approach to offer a range of flexible and affordable delivery options for both orders and returns. As a result, retailers can now develop supply chain processes to maximise first time delivery by delivering to home, work, neighbour, safe place, store or parcel shop at a time or day that is convenient for the consumer and fits within their increasingly busy lifestyles.

  • Carole Woodhead, Chief executive, Hermes